Saturday, January 14, 2006

It Never Goes There

Degrassi is one of my guilty pleasures. For those of you that haven't heard of it, it's a Canadian high school drama (shown on The N, aka Noggin, in the US) whose latest ad campaign features the tagline It Goes There in reference to it's emotional and scandalous storylines: teacher/student affair, plastic surgery, school shootings, rape, and much more.

But there are some places even Degrassi doesn't go - at least not on Noggin. In season three, one of the main characters got pregnant - and had an abortion. But not on American television. The "problem" just magically disappeared in the US version - Noggin refused to air the episode, despite fan protest. The series that was able to show kids drinking, mutilating themselves, cheating on each other, stealing cars, and having sex could not show something as commonplace as abortion.

It's exceptionally rare for abortion to be shown on US television, especially as anything other than a traumatic event. This insistence on keeping abortion out of our cultural dialogue has an impact on our political dialogue as well. It not only reinforces the idea that abortion is shameful, it reinforces the idea that only certain types of women have abortions, even though the statistics say otherwise. It means that even when people do hear stories that contradict conventional wisdom (women who get abortions are sluts, irresponsible, and hate children) they can compartmentalize it and tell themselves it's an exception to the rule - rather than the standard. It means that when we finally do talk about abortion, we are often forced to talk about it with the underlying presumption that the kind of woman who would seek an abortion is the not the type of woman we should trust to make such a decision in the first place.

My cousin watches Degrassi now as well. She's one of the teenagers that parental notification laws supposedly protect. I find it utterly irresponsible that the shows she watches can manage to address school violence - something she will likely never have to deal with - with obsessive frequency, but cannot discuss abortion at all, even though is much more likely to affect her.


Angela James said...

That's really interesting--I occassionaly see Degrassi, but only because I have a 14 month-old daughter who watches Noggin and sometimes the channel remains there after it switches to The N. Although I don't watch it regularly, I did see an episode where her pregnancy was discussed. Sad, that they'll show everything else--as if all those things are acceptable, but not show the episode with the abortion.

It's almost like saying, yes, all those other things are bad but we can deal with them. Abortion? Makes you a really bad person, even when rape doesn't.

Oh, and thanks for commenting on my RTB column.


Mickle said...

"I did see an episode where her pregnancy was discussed."

Unless it was a really old episode, it was probably Liberty - she and JT were going to try to raise the baby themselves - but know she's decided to give it up for adoption. (sad, sad, sad, that I know that)

Which is part of why Manny's abortion has been in my mind lately, and why I'm even angrier now about it being cut than I was at the time.

Oh, and thanks for being my first commenter. ;)

lost clown said...

Yeah the Manny thing is old. Wow. I didn't know that they don't show it in the US (despite living stateside, all my TV channels are Canadian, and I must say I like it that way.)

Grrr....that would piss me off too. How the hell did they manage to cut that out and keep the other stroylines going. Did they even let you know she was pregnant? *sheesh*

Mickle said...

lost clown - I'm not entirely certain actually. I think the whole pregancy was skipped altogther (since it and the abortion was one double episode).

I heard about it after I started watching some of the shows for season 3 (right?). I had missed several episodes from the previous season and my first impression about the teasing Manny got was that it was only about helping Craig cheat on Ashley.